By GEOFF FOX
A three-classroom school tucked inside a church in south St. Petersburg, Florida, is proving that a learning institution doesn’t need a sprawling campus to become a beacon for families seeking educational options.
Mt. Moriah Christian Fundamental Academy was founded in 2011 by Pastor Robert Ward of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.
That first year, there were only three sixth-grade students and one teacher, but it has grown steadily. It now serves sixth- through eighth-graders, and the staff has grown to three full-time teachers, three teacher’s assistants and Principal Shannon Dolly.
Because of our supporters, those students now have hope for a brighter future.
Dolly attributed Mt. Moriah’s growth to word-of-mouth testimonials among parents in the area.
“We also put up a sign out front a couple of years ago,” she said. “That alone has helped us a lot.”
Most students are from the south St. Petersburg area, although some travel from nearby Largo and Pinellas Park.
Dolly is happy that enrollment is increasing and ecstatic with how well her students are performing.
During the 2016-17 school year, the school opted into Step Up’s Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) assessment. With multiple tests a year, MAP® provides teachers with almost immediate results, allowing them to adjust their instruction to the needs of each student.
Dolly said the program has worked well and that reading scores at Mt.Moriah have significantly increased. Mt. Moriah graduates either attend a public school or transfer to a private high school.
Without our supporters, crucial innovations like MAP would not be possible.
“I work diligently with the eighth-grade parents to get their kids in the right school,” Dolly said. “We make sure they’re on a rigorous academic program. They don’t know it, but they work a grade ahead. When they go to high school, they already have an Algebra 1 or Spanish 1 credit, as long as they pass it here.”
Students like Tahjai Lassiter, 14, have thrived at Mt. Moriah. A student on the tax-credit scholarship program, Tahjai graduated from the school in June as its valedictorian with a 3.8 grade-point average. In 2017-18, she plans to attend Gibbs High School, a local public school, where she will be enrolled in the Beta program.
The Beta program blends business and technological skills into students’ academic courses. The program includes a “real world simulated business class where students use their critical thinking skills and hands-on curriculum to operate a business within the school,” according to the school’s website.
The program should offer plenty of challenges, but they are ones Tahjai has been well-prepared for at Mt. Moriah. In fact, the program should be an especially good fit for her.
“I want to own a couple of businesses locally,” she said of her future aspirations.
Zhariah Stephens, 12, a rising eighth-grader, said she is also happy at Mt. Moriah. She is also a tax-credit scholar and previously attended a private elementary school.
Although she said science is her favorite subject, “because it’s easier,” Zharia aspires to someday become an attorney.
“Sometimes I like to argue,” she said.
Dolly nodded in agreement, saying, “She’s a great debater.”
Zhariah added that television shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” have helped stoke her passion for issues pertaining to crime and punishment.
Asked what she liked most about Mt. Moriah, Zhariah didn’t hesitate to mention the staff.
“Because they love me,” she said with a grin.
Without our supporters, Zhariah might have been lost in a sea of other students.
By PAUL SOOST
ST. PETERSBURG – Wright Flood, the largest provider of federal flood insurance policies in the U.S., recently announced its largest contribution to date to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program. Wright Flood’s $1 million contribution will provide 164 scholarships to financially disadvantaged Florida schoolchildren.
The contribution was announced during the Step Up For Students Rising Stars Awards celebration in Pinellas County. The event, hosted at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, recognized Step Up scholars, parents and teachers for their exceptional work during the 2016-17 school year. Students were able to thank Wright Flood executives and other donors attending the event. In 2016, the corporate community contributed a total $559 million for these scholarships, helping lower-income students throughout Florida realize their dreams of attending a private school that fits their educational needs.
Wright Flood has partnered with Step Up For Students since 2008, contributing $2,850,000, which has provided a total of 516 scholarships. Step Up is a nonprofit organization that helps administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. The program is funded by corporations through dollar-for-dollar tax credited donations.
“Wright Flood is proud to donate annually to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program and is impressed with the success of the students who participate,” said Patty Templeton-Jones, president of Wright Flood. “As a St. Petersburg company, we are so glad to see students in our home state benefit.”
During the 2016-17 school year, Step Up For Students is serving nearly 98,000 students throughout Florida with tuition scholarships valued up to $5,886 per student. About 1,700 private schools participate in the scholarship program statewide. Scholars may also choose a $500 scholarship to offset the cost of transportation to an out-of-district public school.
“We are always grateful to longtime corporate partners like Wright Flood who recognize the value of educational choice and who support our mission to ensure that all Florida students have access to learning environments that suit their individual needs,” said Doug Tuthill, Step Up For Students president. “We are grateful for Wright Flood’s continued support and for their commitment to the communities they serve.”
By PAUL SOOST|
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS – Synchrony Financial, a premier consumer financial services company with an 80-year heritage, has announced a $1 million donation to Step Up For Students to provide scholarships for financially disadvantaged children in Orlando.
The donation marks the first time that Synchrony Financial has partnered with Step Up For Students. Synchrony Financial’s contribution will fund about 165 K-12 scholarships for financially disadvantaged Florida children so they may attend a private K-12 school, or an out-of-district public school. The scholarships provide an opportunity for recipients to find a school that fits their individual needs and lead them toward a more prosperous future
“We’re pleased that this donation will provide children with a real opportunity for educational success. Synchrony Financial is committed to addressing the needs of today’s working families, which includes providing enriching and safe places for kids to be while their parents are working,” said Margaret Keane, Synchrony Financial president and CEO. “Educational opportunities are crucial to opening doors to hope for a better future. Working with Step Up For Students is a true embodiment of our purpose statement to improve the success of every business we serve and the quality of each life we touch.”
Step Up For Students helps administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to qualified lower-income K-12 schoolchildren throughout Florida. The program allows recipients to choose between a scholarship to help with private school tuition and fees, or a transportation scholarship to attend an out-of-district public school.
“We are truly grateful to have Synchrony Financial as a partner in our mission to ensure that lower-income children have choices in their education,” said Doug Tuthill, Step Up president. “With their help, we are providing access to Florida’s children to an educational environment that best fits their learning need, and will also positively affect our communities in the future.”
During the 2016-17 school year, Step Up For Students expects to serve more than 91,000 students throughout Florida, with tuition scholarships valued up to $5,886 per student. More than 1,600 private schools participate in the scholarship program statewide.
Synchrony Financial has had a presence in the Orlando area since 1983, and recently increased its commitment to central Florida this summer with the opening of a second site.
The original location in Longwood is primarily a customer support site. The second location, in Altamonte Springs, will provide customer service and collections support across all of Synchrony Financial’s business platforms. The 102,000 square-foot space features training and conference rooms with advanced technologies including telepresence capabilities, an on-site dining venue and employee fitness center.
Synchrony Financial employees in the Orlando area have provided nearly 300 volunteer hours so far in 2016 with a number of local nonprofit agencies.
About Synchrony Financial
Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) is one of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies. Its roots in consumer finance trace back to 1932, and today the company is the largest provider of private label credit cards in the United States based on purchase volume and receivables*. Synchrony Financial provides a range of credit products through programs we have established with a diverse group of national and regional retailers, local merchants, manufacturers, buying groups, industry associations and healthcare service providers to help generate growth for our partners and offer financial flexibility to our customers. Through its partners’ more than 350,000 locations across the United States and Canada, and its websites and mobile applications, the company offers its customers a variety of credit products to finance the purchase of goods and services. Synchrony Financial offers private label and co-branded Dual Card™ credit cards, promotional financing and installment lending, loyalty programs and FDIC-insured savings products through Synchrony Bank. More information can be found at www.synchronyfinancial.com, facebook.com/SynchronyFinancial, www.linkedin.com/company/synchrony-financial and twitter.com/SYFNews.
*Source: The Nilson Report (May 2016, Issue # 1087) – based on 2015 data.